Friar Basketball

Ben Bentil’s Rise Continues vs URI

Bentil Slamming

“Kris Dunn and who else?”

It was the question that hung over the heads of everyone affiliated with Providence’s program this offseason, and judging by the way he’s played through nine games, it was a question that irked PC sophomore Ben Bentil.

On Saturday night Bentil broke the hearts of URI fans and provided Friartown with one of the most memorable plays in the rivalry’s long history when he tipped in Dunn’s layup attempt at the buzzer to give PC a 74-72 victory and improve their record to a surprising 8-1.

The Friars aren’t anywhere near 8-1 without the second year emergence of Bentil.

He showed flashes as a freshman (he finished with a handful of double doubles over the final month of the season, including two in the Big East Tournament), but given the opportunity to step into a leading role in year two Bentil has been one of the nation’s breakout stars.

He entered Saturday third in the Big East in scoring, and has simply feasted since Thanksgiving night when he hung 24 points on Evansville.

Bentil has scored 20 or more points in five straight games, and he’s done so against good competition — 21 against Arizona, 20 on Michigan State, and 23 more when matched up against URI’s defensive dynamo Hassan Martin.

Over PC’s last two games Bentil is 18-24 from the field, and he’s largely stayed out of foul trouble throughout the season, playing 38 minutes against Evansville, 39 versus Arizona and 38 more against Michigan State.

He lasted just 11 minutes in the first half against URI after he picked up two fouls, but went the distance in the second half after committing only one the rest of the game.

And he’s doing all of this playing out of position.

When Paschal Chukwu transferred last May the news had to be crushing for Bentil. He not only lost a close friend, but gone was the player many figured he’d pair with for the next three seasons in a formidable 4-5 duo. It also slid Bentil over to center — a transition most power forwards make hesitantly.

While it probably wasn’t an ideal scenario for Bentil entering the season, he’s been able to take advantage of his size on the interior and against slower big men at the arc.

In the four games leading into URI, Bentil connected on 7-15 from beyond the three point line, but against the Rams he went to work inside, bulling his way to the basket and twice flashing a spin move toward the baseline for a layup.

And when PC most needed a basket it was Bentil who made a play — not once, but twice, in the final 40 seconds of the game. He came up with the ball off of a scramble with 40 seconds to play and threw down a dunk to give PC a 72-70 lead, and then he won the game for the Friars with a soft tip in at the buzzer.

Neither play was drawn up for Bentil, which is fitting considering how he has adjusted on the fly during his second season at Providence.

The Friars are 8-1, figure to rise in the national rankings once again this week, and they are anything but a one man team.

Ben Bentil was the man on Saturday night in Kingston.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar


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